Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Review: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I get a lot of movies recommended to me, but it's extremely rare that I ever watch any of them. Even more so when they've been recommended by more than one person. I don't know what it is. I like movies, and it's not that I don't trust the recommendations, it might just be that by the time I've heard about it for the second or third time, I feel like I've already seen it. Let me give you a little bit:

Guy: Have you seen this movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi?
Me: No.
Guy: It's about this guy...
Me: I'm guessing his name is Jiro.
Guy: Yeah.
Me: And he dreams of sushi.
Guy: Shut the hell up, douche.... Yeah... it's about this guy Jiro, who, like, owns a sushi restaurant in a Tokyo subway station, but he's pretty much the best sushi chef in the world. He's worked just about every day for the last 75 years, just making this badass sushi.

At this point in the conversation, pretty much everything about this movie has been revealed. I would have called it a spoiler alert, but it's all in the logline of the movie, which is what makes it pretty damn charming. Like the little old man behind the counter making the sushi, the beauty of this movie is in its simplicity.

As you might have overheard when my friend and I were talking before, Jiro is 85 years old and has been making sushi since he was 10.  You could say he's a perfectionist of the highest order. And this is all that drives the story. The search for perfection. Isn't that enough? Or is it not perfection that will make us happy, but merely the search?

This is the main point which I began to think about while watching this film. It's been said many times before in one way or another: "It's not the destination, but the journey," but it's as true now as it's ever been. And what this film brings to light, and why so many people seem to have taken to it as a sort of new-age guru is precisely because it shows a man who has committed himself to the journey towards perfection and has never wavered. Although Jiro often finds fault in his work, it just gives him another reason to come to work tomorrow and try it again a different way, to constantly evolve and improve. But in the end, even though he has reached for perfection his entire life, he seems to be a man who realizes that perfection doesn't really exist, which means that there is no stopping point.

Pride is one major ingredient that's missing from America today, and it might be in this: we only take pride in the things that we've fully accomplished, not always in the things which we strive for.* We're proud of ourselves when we get a raise, but not always in the work that we've done to earn it. We're proud of ourselves when we cross the finish line, but we often consider every mile leading up to it as a little piece of hell. Something that we relish only because we look forward to the final result. This is why we all have something to learn from Jiro. 

Much like "The Art of War" isn't really about war, Jiro isn't really about sushi. In fact, for someone that loves sushi and would like to learn more, I learned very little about sushi in this movie, besides how incredibly pretty it can look in slo-mo. But there's plenty more to learn here, and that's why if you have need a minute away from everything to unwind and recharge for your next day at work, I suggest you watch this movie.

Like I said, a lot of businessmen have attached themselves to this movie for motivation, thus it's only appropriate that some of the best words I've read about this movie have come from a business site:

How you choose to share your gift is your choice.  However, choosing perfection is its own isolation.  There is a huge price to ignore all things beyond the craft, to consciously look away from the opportunity that might await when amazing (not perfect) is good enough.  Perfection does not scale, creation does. You can find your glory, your love, your satisfaction in either place, but never both. 

* My other theory about pride in American came about just this last week when I was touring Colorado with a band of Hickenlooper's cronies, talking to Coloradans about what their thoughts and concerns were about the past, present and future of Colorado. When we were talking to the owner of The Sentinel, the oldest newspaper in Colorado, he said the main reason the country is going down the drain is because kids (or anyone for that matter) don't take pride in what they do anymore. While he mentioned that it was most prevalent with people taking handouts from the government through entitlement programs, I thought about this more later and came to the conclusion that kids have learned to not take pride in their own work through the school system's insistence on group learning. They say that group learning more accurately portrays the work force of today, which is true, but at the high school level, it really just makes kids lazy as fuck because they know the odds of at least one smart kid being in the group has to be at least 1 out of 4, and mostly because they know they can't get fired.


  1. Hey Paul,

    First of all, where did you get this movie? Internet, video store, friend?

    Second, I think I probably don't recommend movies to you, but I know I definitely take your recommendations on books, movies, and music.

    Third, I liked the quote about perfection. I'll have to ponder that one a bit. Your asterisk paragraph was also an interesting thought. Where does the line between pride and arrogance begin, I wonder? I'm proud of things I do, although maybe not of things I'm striving for, since I've not accomplished those things yet, and I feel it'd be dishonest to be proud of them. But maybe I'm misunderstanding, or using the word in a different way. I was a bit confused with the school group learning analogy at the end, but I do agree with the idea that group learning won't help individual excellence.

    Maybe you're saying that we just do a shitty job with stuff, and good enough is good enough, so that's why we're actually pretty lame?

  2. Hey Ry,

    First of all, this wonderful flick is available on Netflix instant stream, or I'm sure you can rent it or buy it anywhere.

    Second, feel free to recommend movies to me anytime. I just might not watch them. Haha.

    Third, my analogy from school group learning is probably based more on practical experience. I don't know how much group learning you had when you were in school, but it seemed like it was kinda "up-and-coming" when I was growing up. The idea was to get kids to collaborate and be social. What always ended up happening was one person would do the work and everyone else would sit and watch, while talking about... I dunno. I'm sorry, I'm really distracted by "Storage Wars" right now. The point is that in the old days you actually got evaluated based on performance, and if you didn't take pride in your work then you got your ass fired. Now, if you don't take pride in your work, you get a raise. I'm not kidding, Storage Wars is messing up my world right now.

    I hope that made some sense.